Jakarta in Indonesia was the location for a recently held BRIDGE course on Electoral Dispute Resolution. Upcoming elections in Indonesia, scheduled for 9 April, meant that election fever across the country was heating up during the course preparations. Amidst daily newspaper headlines on the elections and campaign posters starting to decorate the capital, course preparations was in full swing by the time we arrived on the ground.
The lowest point on Earth is the Dead Sea. Situated 413 metres below sea level, this salt lake lies between the West Bank and Jordan. With one of the world’s first health resorts, the Dead Sea area has enjoyed important religious significance within Judaism, Islamic and Christianity histories. This unique site was a very appropriate location for a BRIDGE course in strategic planning for Jordanian election managers.
The mountainous Kingdom of Lesotho ran its first BRIDGE course in July 2008. With a population of around 2 million, Lesotho was the first country to adopt a mixed member proportional system in Africa. This electoral system and its seat calculation was the source of an extended dispute settled by the courts just before the BRIDGE course began. With the Electoral Commission being central to the disputed results, this was a hot topic during the BRIDGE course that was held in Teyateyaneng’s Blue Mountain Inn, just an hour’s drive outside the capital of Maseru.
I watched my bag being lifted over the edge of the ferry into waiting hands, praying that it would not drop into the harbour waters below. For eight days I was resident on the famous Gorée Island, just 1 km and a 30 minute ferry ride off the Dakar coastline in Senegal. For about seven days the small population of Gorée was boosted by 26 participants from ACE regional centres. The regional centres are located in geographically strategic places around the world, acting as regional hubs collecting and processing election-related information.
So you want to run a BRIDGE course? BRIDGE has grown into the de facto elections training curriculum around the world today. Short for Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections, the course has developed out of initiatives by the Australian Electoral Commission, International IDEA and the UN's Electoral Assistance Division. A testimony to its growth is the addition in recent years of IFES and UNDP as partners in the BRIDGE Project.
From 8 to 12 June 2008 the second BRIDGE course was run in the heat of Aqaba in Jordan. With the blissful setting of the Red Sea in the background the searing temperatures were soon forgotten as 25 participants from the Ministries of Interior and Municipal Affairs got stuck into the Introduction to Election Administration Module.
Running training in a shopping mall proved to be a good decision. The accommodation venue in Gaborone was filled to capacity and the option was to run the course in a marquee tent. Having been in a similar situation before, we opted for the mall. This was to be the first time a BRIDGE course was to be run in Botswana.
The International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) in conjunction with the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), conducted a BRIDGE training session with 6 newly appointed Election Commissioners.
The Zimbabwe Elections Support Network (ZESN) hosted a BRIDGE course for the different organisations in its network in mid-January 2008. 36 participants from all over Zimbabwe joined together in Nyanga, in the eastern highlands of the country, to attend training in Public Outreach and Electoral Observation from 14 to 18 January. The setting could easily have been confused with Scotland rather than Zimbabwe, with trout fishing and a golf course set amongst forests and rolling mountains and a constant chill and misty days.
In the middle of the November spring rains in South Africa participants from southern and east African countries joined the first Implementation Workshop for BRIDGE to be held on the African continent. The 3-day Implementation Workshop is based on the BRIDGE Implementation Manual and aims to guide individuals and organisations responsible for designing and setting up training courses that use material taken from the BRIDGE Project curriculum.